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On Is Elon Musk the Jonas Salk of Our Time?

Thats a very good point! 

I agree that the two technologies couldn't be more different.  I would like to think that your description of electric vehicles so far is one of Musk's motivations for releasing his patents.  Currently, electric vehicles are completely out of the question for most people due to the high costs, and the people who are able to own them most certianly make a show of it (I won't name names).  Elon Musk is already worth billions of dollars - so he's not sacrificing as much as Dr. Salk, who simply decided his vaccine was worth more to the world than a patent that would make him millions.

But, with Musk's technology now freely available to all manufacturers - it's a good bet that the cost of ownership will drop and more people will have the option to choose electric cars instead of gasoline models. 

The materials required to make them are definitely not ideally sustainable, but then neither are many metals and materials that make up gasoline cars - so that might be a wash.  

I'm an optimist on this issue - the billionaire club for electric cars is hopefully waning, and we'll see more affordable models coming off the lots soon.  

They're not perfect, but people won't give up their cars - so it's a step forward in my opinion.  Plus, air pollution is a huge cause of death and disease around the world.  Fewer emissions from vehicles could save some lives - although indirectly (and there would be no way to prove it's due to electric cars - but i'm sure they won't hurt).  We'll have to wait and see.

June 23, 2014    View Comment    

On Are the Semantics of Climate Change Assessments Fooling Us?

Absolutely Robert! I apologize for ascribing my own interpretations to you. I have changed that statement to quote your language more directly. both here and in the original article. http://www.yourenergyblog.com/are-the-semantics-of-climate-change-assess... I hope you find this to be more accurate, and I thank you for correcting me. I don't wish to put words in anyone's mouth besides my own. Thank you for reading! Jessica Kennedy
June 13, 2014    View Comment    

On The 97%: Watch John Oliver's Hilarious 'Statistically Representative Climate Change Debate'

So, by ignoring "facts" I can only assume you mean ignoring the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. 
Peer reviewed articles are what matter. Credible researchers submit their work for review.  "Scientists" who know their research has severe flaws will not, for obvious reasons.  The 97% statistic comes primarily from work of scientists (real ones) that scanned peer reviewed research for articles rejecting climate change.  Now, let me be extremely clear on this (and it is not my personal opinion, but it is how the review process works).  Peer review is not a liberal agenda.  It is a legitimate part of the scientific process, and a necessary step to ensure that no seriously flawed or biased papers are published in well-respected journals.  
Jim Powell, the scientist behind much of this research sums up the process saying "The articles have a total of 33,690 individual authors. The top ten countries represented, in order, are USA, England, China, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia, France, Spain, and Netherlands."  (i.e. not just US journals – he’s also updated his results as recently as this year).  You can find all the methodology, results, and information here

 

Also worth noting is that Jim Powell, was appointed to the National Science Board under both Reagan and Bush.    

May 16, 2014    View Comment    

On The 97%: Watch John Oliver's Hilarious 'Statistically Representative Climate Change Debate'

I can only agree passionately with Oliver's brilliant one-liner here.

May 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Carbon Dioxide Is Not Good for Us: And Other Carbon Truths

Thank you for your kind responses David!

I agree with all you've said - money is a BIG problem here since it often motivates people so much more strongly than social, cultural, and environmental issues. 

I think a big part of the solution here is to really pound into the heads of all of our decision-makers and activists how much climate change and carbon emissions is actually COSTING us.  Cleaning up after category 5 hurricanes isn't cheap - and preventing strengthening weather systems, food shortages, extinctions, and all the impacts of our contribution to climate change is simply cheaper than the profits from fossil fuels.

I don't see how that can be overlooked - especially now as we are seeing real-world implications of our warming world.  

I hope we can spread the information and make policy-makers understand this before it's too late. 

what are the odds?

 

May 7, 2014    View Comment    

On Carbon Dioxide Is Not Good for Us: And Other Carbon Truths

Hi Daivd, 

Yeah I like the way you think!

The unfortunate reality we live in is that people are so stubborn and resistant to change, and too many folks at the "top" are profiting piecemeal from fossil fuels.  It's destructive and will take a lot of diligence and persistence to spur some real change.  

It's not hopeless though - humans have changed the world before - social and economic conditions are certianly different than they were 100 or even 50 years ago.

Environmentally speaking: thinkers like Rachel Carson, Paul Hawken, John Muir, and others too numerous to list have successfully spurred attention to the perils of our polluting practices (past and present), and although there has not been too much in the way of infrastructure changes and adjustments in business practices - there have been some steps forward, and also improtantly, there is a change in mindset spreading rapidly.  The ideas are the first step - we just need to home they initiate some real action sooner rather than later.  Or we won't be hearing the birds!  

May 5, 2014    View Comment    

On Carbon Dioxide Is Not Good for Us: And Other Carbon Truths

That's exactly the problem in my opinion.  There is too much effort maintaining the status quo and not enough time and resources being devoted to changing the grid structure the way it needs to be changed. Personally, I believe this has a lot to do with the fact that too many people see more dollar signs attached to fossil fuels and nuclear power than they do with renewable energy because of the investment needed. 

Nuclear could help with the problem of energy poverty - but it doesn't solve the problem of grid instability due to transmission line networks that are frankly, quite fragile.  In the developing world especially, such networks run a high risk of exposure to the elements, severe weather, and lack of proper maintenence. A new nuclear plant will do no good for people living in isolated areas if power outages and transmission system repairs are constant.  Just burying lines won't work in places like South America and Africa where ecology is a concern (and ecology is VERY much a concern - power delivery does not trump it).  

Renewable energy like PV and wind honestly suit developing areas better because of their ability to power microgrids and individual buildings via rooftop solar.   

There are arguments out there that nuclear is the answer - but if anything it might be a band-aid.  Renewable energy sources aren't mature enough to power all our needs . . . yet.  

There's no reason whatsoever to build several power plants in developing areas with old-fashioned transmission systems.  We'd be doing the people a disservice by keeping their infrastructure behind the times.  

May 1, 2014    View Comment    

On Carbon Dioxide Is Not Good for Us: And Other Carbon Truths

Absolutely Nate, 

I apologize for being a bit short on that fact - I was hoping to avoid a long sidetrack into plant biology, photosynthesis & the Krebs Cycle.

What that boils down to - the fact that we need CO2 in the atmosphere to support plant life, but that the CO2 we generally emit from fossil fuel burning does our plants no favors, is that CO2 put into the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels (and sometimes biomass like wood) rises into a layer of the atmosphere called the tropopause.  The tropopause is the border between the portion of the atmosphere we inhabit (the troposphere) and the next layer of our atmosphere (stratosphere).  Plants can't get to any of the CO2 in the tropopuase - this is where the greenhouse effect & the ozone layer "live."  
The long life of CO2 molecules cited by the article you link to is one of the very big problems here, as the gas is difficult to "get rid of."

Carbon most certianly does cycle in the atmosphere, most gases do, just as water cycles from atmosphere to Earth.  To understand the idea I'm explaining it is necessary to continue reading to the paragraph beyond the one you quoted.  
" However, the net addition of CO2 to the atmosphere from human activities will take a very long time to be permanently absorbed by oceans, plants, and soil. If you add a pulse of extra CO2 into the atmosphere, only about half of it will be gone from the air a century later. The rest will leave the atmosphere even more gradually, over hundreds and even thousands of years."

Saying that the carbon is "trapped" in our greenhouse layer is merely a mechanism for conveying the fact that it is NOT removed from our air via carbon sinks like plantlife in a jiffy, as many climate change opponents claim, and it is a simplistic view I will admit.  The carbon that is "trapped" refers to quantity of the gas, not the molecules themselves.  The point is that the carbon in the upper layer of the Troposphere (specifically the tropopause) is not usable by any form of life on this earth as it is unreachable - and contributes to global warming.  As it cycles, however, you are right to quote the UCAR article, it is eventually accessible to plantlife, oceans, and our other carbon "sinks."  

The point to remember, as both UCAR and I am pointing out - is that atmospheric CO2 is rising - and human generated emissions are behind it 
"Actually, fossil fuel burning results in more than 30 billion metric tons of CO2 being added to the atmosphere each year. That’s more than 9,000 pounds for every person on Earth."

Even if that is not the largest source of carbon mass in our atmosphere, it's one we control, and it's doing plenty of damage.

Thank you for your comment!

April 30, 2014    View Comment    

On Carbon Dioxide Is Not Good for Us: And Other Carbon Truths

I agree, Hops, 

Yeah I generalized "us" to basically encompass humanity in general, as I think we should consider ourselves as connected to our future generations.  You're right in pointing out that is not likely to be the position of many though - particularly those currently gaining financially from fossil fuels.

Economics has always been what really makes the world go 'round, even if we don't like to admit it.  While I'd love to believe preaching the moral superiority of not destroying our habitable environment makes a difference, I believe you're right on point saying that the real hope is renewable energy getting cheaper. 

let's hope that happens, for our children's future!  

Thank you for your comment!

April 30, 2014    View Comment    

On Carbon Dioxide Is Not Good for Us: And Other Carbon Truths

Excellent points!  

One thing your comment made me think of is the real cost of fossil fuels.  Some studies suggest that when we account for the social costs of carbon-rich fuels (severe weather, heat waves, etc.) fossil fuels ARE actually  more expensive than rewnewables.  Obviously this isn't going to convert anyone oppososed to more expensive up-front energy costs.  The prevailing attitude there is that renewable energy is great but it's too expensive - the cost of rebuilding after hurricanes, blizzards and other extreme weather events isn't their problem.  It is though, in the form of our tax dollars, insurance premiums, and the risk to our own health and property.  

Expanding energy access is also a dilemma for energy development.  Do we skip the old-fashioned fossil fuels and build more expensive (up-front) renewable systems, or just install the cheaper up-front system to bring energy more quickly and easily?
I personally hope we just skip to the next generation of renewable energy for developing nations - it will keep their parts of the world cleaner, and in the long run put them at an advantage when it comes to cost and energy security.  

I too, hope science will win!  

Thank you for your comment!

April 30, 2014    View Comment    

On EPA Restrictions Can Encourage Clean Coal

I agree Paul,

I think that CCS technology should be much more advanced by now, but because the fossil fuel industries were not "forced" by regulations to curtail their emissions there was no investment in developing it.  Either these regulations will put power plant emissions in check (either by CCS or some other means) or fossil fuels will be going the way of the dinosaurs they came from. 

September 26, 2013    View Comment    

On Controlling Climate Change: IEA Says It's Not All About Carbon Dioxide

Yes, water vapor is our #1 contributor to the greenhouse effect, and also the least discussed GHG.  Water vapor is very short-lived in the atmosphere though, the larger challenge, right now, is to get rid of the GHG emissions that stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.  The ramifications of those are far worse since we can't remove them once they're there.  Water vapor remains only a short time before it falls as rain.  I

July 15, 2013    View Comment